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Executive compensation: when more is less

The cost of a college education keeps climbing, in part because of unchecked executive compensation. As a result, each year, fewer students believe they can afford to attend college. In fact, a recent study showed that nearly 3 in 10 college studentshave little to no confidence that they have enough money to finish their degree programs.

In the last few days, I’ve looked at some important factors that put a college education out of reach, including:

Today, we add executive compensation to the list.

I recently wrote about executive compensation at WCC, and the need for transparency by the Board of Trustees. In June, the Trustees authorized yet-another contract extension for the current WCC president. The motion indicated that the President’s proposed salary would be $249,000. What the motion didn’t indicate is that the base salary is only a subset of the President’s overall compensation package. The total value of the president’s compensation package in 2020 was more than $387,000. Today, it likely exceeds $400,000.

To put that in perspective, the WCC president’s total compensation package is larger than that of the president of Saginaw Valley State University. It is also larger than the compensation package for the president of Lake Superior State University.

As I pointed out in my earlier piece on executive compensation, it’s not just the President who’s making this kind of money. All of the executive positions at the College are salaried in relation to the President’s compensation. The more the President makes, the more the Executive Vice President(s) make. The more the EVPs make, the more the VPs make, and the more they make, the more the AVPs make.

Executive compensation generates extraordinary costs

Unfortunately for the taxpayers of Washtenaw County, the Board of Trustees has done nothing to rein in either executive compensation or executive hiring. That places an extraordinary salary burden on the institution. WCC has more Vice Presidents than any community college in Michigan. In truth, I could not find a comparably sized community college in the United States that had more Vice Presidents than WCC does.

On one hand, the casual observer could say that WCC hasn’t raised tuition in several years, so the cost of the administration must not be that hard on the budget. WCC has added fees – the latest being a $5 per credit hour “technology infrastructure fee.” It has also reduced spending on instruction by more than 12% and has canceled dozens of instructional programs. WCC is practicing the educational version of shrinkflation, where the cost of a good or service doesn’t change, but buyer get less of it.

And as the buyers in this equation, the Washtenaw County taxpayers are certainly getting a lot less for their money from WCC than they used to. (Fewer full time instructors, fewer degree programs, fewer enrolled students, no on-campus childcare center, etc.)

Unregulated executive hiring and unlimited executive compensation hurts the institution and the community. Washtenaw Community College needs Trustees who will place limits on both the size of the executive administration and the compensation available to it.

Photo Credit: Brett Jordan , via Flickr